Hop's Hoops Game Preview - Florida

The Texas Aggie basketball team hasn't been challenged on the court since a trip to Madison Square Garden in November. Valuable RPI points will be at stake when the Aggies tussle with future SEC foe Florida. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a closer look at the match-up and provides keys to victory.

This isn't Alcorn State or Arkansas Tech. The Texas Aggie basketball team moves up in class when they shed home contests against cupcakes and take on the second best basketball program in the SEC, No. 12 Florida. It will be a difficult task. The Aggies head to South Florida as 9.5 point underdogs. In fact, this is the first game of the 2011 season where Texas A&M isn't the favorite team.

The storyline of this game is the No. 3 offense of the Gators (87 pts/gm) going up against the Aggies' No. 4 defense (51 pts/gm). A deeper look reveals that this will boil down to the quickness and outside shooting of the Florida guards versus the size advantage of the Aggies.

Frankly, A&M is going to have its hands full trying to stay with junior Kenny Boynton (18.7 ppg), 5-foot-8 jitterbug Erving Walker (13.9 ppg), and freshman phenom Bradley Beal (15.1 ppg). Dash Harris will match-up with Walker, but the 6-foot-5 Elston Turner will struggle to stick with Boynton and Khris Middleton will have a challenge sticking with Beal.

Basically, if those guards can lose the slower A&M defenders and collapse the defense, fouls will pile up and the Gators will find themselves at the free throw line frequently and the Aggies in foul trouble. If that happens, Billy Donovon will force Billy Kennedy to go small at the guard position. Really, for Texas A&M to stick with those guards, Jamal Branch and Naji Hibbert will need to see significant minutes. In fact, expect to see Branch get the most minutes he's played all season for the simple fact that he's the best defensive match for the Boynton who was a Top 5 national recruit coming out of high school two years ago.

If I were Coach Kennedy, I'd actually play Khris Middleton at the No. 4 spot going up against Florida's 6-foot-7 post who is actually Florida's weakest starter. Middleton will be quicker than Yeguete and will create a mismatch on the offensive end. Middleton played the No. 4 quite a bit his freshman year. That will allow A&M to go quicker on the perimeter defensively with Branch, Harris, and Elston Turner. At the same time, it also allows Coach Kennedy to focus the rest of his posts on the athletic 6-foot-9, 245-pound Patric Young (11.6 ppg).


Keys to Victory

1. The A&M guards must keep the capable Gator guards on the perimeter and eliminate the opportunities to drive to the basket and collapse the defense.

2. Florida is a very streaky shooting team and there's not a shot they don't like. A&M must defend closely, and then hope that the Gators are cold (or at least luke warm) from the 3-point line. If Florida gets hot from the outside, the Aggies are in serious trouble.

3. Texas A&M must score points in the paint, and the focus will be on David Loubeau who is making a homecoming to Florida. Loubeau has been a mild disappointment so far this season against inferior opponents. Last season, he was money on that little baby hook move. That shot hasn't been going down this season. He must get going early and often. If Middleton plays some No. 4, he'll need to translate his quickness advantage into some points in the paint. If Middleton remains at the wing, then Ray Turner will need to produce in the paint.

4. Texas A&M is in the top 10 nationally in rebounding margin, and they will need the extra possessions and shots to overcome better guard play by the Gators. A&M needs some easy second chance putbacks by Ray Turner.

5. Somebody has to become the go-to guy on offense. Whether that's Middleton, Turner, or Loubeau, somebody needs to get hot and pour in 20+ points.

6. Texas A&M must score at least 70 points which has been a challenge so far this season. That means the Aggies must get some secondary transition baskets and score a few buckets earlier in the shot clock. As good as A&M has been on defense, they aren't going to hold the Florida offense to under 65 points.


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